It is well established that altered maternal nutrition may induce long-term metabolic consequences in offspring. However, the effects of maternal undernutrition during different developmental windows on sex-specific growth and metabolism in offspring are not well defined. We investigated the effect of moderate maternal undernutrition during pregnancy and/or lactation on postnatal growth and metabolic outcomes in offspring. Wistar rats were randomly assigned to one of four groups: (1) control (CONT) dams fed a standard diet throughout pregnancy and lactation; (2) dams undernourished to 50 % of CONT during pregnancy (UNP); (3) dams fed at 50 % of CONT throughout lactation (UNL); (4) dams fed at 50 % of CONT throughout pregnancy and lactation (UNPL). UNP and UNPL offspring were lighter at birth compared to CONT and UNL. UNL and UNPL offspring were growth restricted at weaning and remained smaller into adulthood. UNP males and females developed increased adiposity and hyperleptinaemia in adulthood compared to all other groups. Adiposity in UNL and UNPL males was similar to CONT offspring. In UNL and UNPL females, adiposity was lower than for CONT females. Markers of bone mass, lipid metabolism and hepatic function were altered in UNP offspring but were similar in UNL and UNPL offspring compared to CONT. Lack of catch-up growth during lactation in offspring of undernourished mothers prevented development of adiposity and related metabolic disorders in later life. These data highlight that the timing and duration of undernutrition during critical windows of development exert differential effects on postnatal outcomes in a sex-specific manner.